House Passes Legislation to Reauthorize National Seashore Advisory Commission

HYANNIS – A bill that would reauthorize the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission has passed through the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Advisory Commission, which represents the towns, county and state, advises the superintendent and the federal government on how to best manage the park. The committee was established in 1961.

The commission was created at the time of the formation of the Cape Cod National Seashore by the National Park Service as there was resistance from Cape Cod towns. The commission is made up of one representative from each of the six towns, two representatives from the state and two representing Barnstable County.

Legislation authorizing the commission expired in September of 2018.

The House bill was sponsored by Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne) and would reauthorize the commission through September 26, 2028. The 10-year reauthorization would apply retroactively to when the previous legislation expired.

Keating said the commission is an integral part of planning and gives local representation to the national seashore.

“This commission serves as a model for the way government should work at the federal level with local communities, and it is rare in that respect,” Keating said.

Keating said it is important to reinstate the commission so that the towns can advise the federal government about possible issues that could be coming to prepare solutions.

“Without this kind of representation, without being able to look beforehand and come forth with solutions, then we are all put at a disadvantage,” he said.

It has been a rough few years for the advisory commission, which normally meets six times every year.

The commission was suspended and placed under review in the spring of 2017 by the Trump Administration and has since only been able to meet twice.

The first meeting in June 2018 came after a 15-month hiatus. The second meeting was in September 2018 just days before the legislation authorizing the commission expired.

All of the National Park Service advisory commissions were banned from meeting in the spring of 2017 for review, but the national seashore’s commission is one of just a few to not be reinstated.

“This has been something that was a concern in terms of why this is happening,” Keating said. “Certainly, there is no controversy in the past over its operation.”

A reauthorization bill for the commission passed through the House last year, but it was late in the legislative session and did not get through the Senate.

“By getting it over there earlier in this Congress, we enhance the ability to get it done in a timely fashion even though it is a little late as it is,” Keating said.

Keating said the bill has received bipartisan support from the House and hopes it gets similar attention in the Senate.

“From time to time the Senate will take bills. There hasn’t been a great deal of activity overall in the Senate, and that is an understatement,” Keating said. “They will be advancing certain bills and we want this to be included among those bills.”

A similar bill to the one that passed the House Wednesday was filed earlier this year by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts).

Keating said the commission is made up of individuals who have committed time and energy to issues facing the region, and they are willing to move forward giving up their time.

“It’s a reflection on the cooperative spirit that has been there and is part of the people who have been appointed to this commission and have done the work, and can take that experience going forward and look for avenues of cooperation instead of trying to deal with reacting to potential obstacles that might occur,” Keating said.

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